My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Warning: this review is going to be very nerdy. Read at your own risk.
I am the shameful second child who never should have come into this world at all. —Rowan
It’s an undeniable truth that dystopian novels have lost their popularity nowadays. The Age of The Hunger Games has been over for quite a while now. I myself have been consuming a lot of fantasy and contemporary books, which tend to be more refreshing than their dystopian peers. With that in mind, Children of Eden might just rekindle the world’s need for dystopian literature.
The moment I saw this book on Tasha Polis’s BookTube, I wanted to check it out immediately. I honestly did not know anything about Joey Graceffa, but I was intrigued by the idea/reality of a YouTube celebrity writing a legit, dystopian novel. Of course, like most booknerds, I was also beguiled by the gorgeous cover. Still, my expectations were neither high nor low; I merely hoped that my 19 dollars would not go to waste.
Now, I am happy to say that I did enjoy Children of Eden. Although it featured a typical, post-apocalyptic dystopia (which hid under the guise of a utopia), I loved Joey Graceffa’s application of Post-Structuralism, which is a body of knowledge that analyzes the delineation of surveillance in literature. In more nerdy terms, I was impressed by the author’s exploration of the Panopticon, a hypothetical, circular prison wherein an all-knowing and omnipresent entity strips people of their privacy. If we still aren’t on the same page, just think about the Big Brother reality show.
In Children of Eden, society is governed by an animated form of technology called the EcoPanopticon (EcoPan). This centralized, technological entity is described to be maternal, in that it supposedly provides for the needs of every citizen. Rowan, the protagonist, becomes uncomfortable when she realizes that she can never escape the withering gaze of the EcoPan. This lack of everyday privacy logically prevents her from being herself throughout the novel. It was very easy for me to sympathize with her plight. After all, I myself already find it very difficult to read in libraries which are frustratingly equipped with CCTV cameras.
Besides the EcoPan, Rowan also suffers under the surveillance of countless Greenshirts or policemen. Furthermore, since her existence as a second child is forbidden, she is constrained to stay at home, constantly monitored by her paranoid parents. Overall, Rowan is virtually a prisoner in the aforementioned Panopticon, doomed to a life where she can never embrace her own identity. I’m not sure if Joey Graceffa intended his work to be critiqued in such an erudite manner. Nevertheless, I hope that by utilizing literary theories, I have unveiled its beauty.
The second thing I loved about this book was its subtle similarity to Red Rising, which is one of my favorite books of all time. Children of Eden also had a major plot twist that boggled my mind to bits. That bomb of a cliff hanger made me want to jump in both ecstasy and disdain. I would not be surprised if Joey Graceffa and Pierce Brown were best friends.
I initially intended to give Children of Eden 4 stars because of its academic value, but I suddenly remembered my occasional moments of boredom and drowsiness. Seriously, half of the book is dedicated to world building. Eden is a very complex society, so its history and mechanics are extensively explained to the point that the story becomes uneventful. It’s pretty ironic how it took me almost a month to finish such a short novel.
All things considered, I applaud Joey Graceffa for doing a job well done. It’s not every day that we get to see YouTube stars publish novels that are actually worth our time and money. If you’re a helpless nerd like me, you will definitely enjoy this book. Just try your best not to be annoyed by the slow pacing.